Investors are tuning in to a new crop of growth companies, says TERRY MURDEN
Amid all the talk of fragile confidence, rising costs and the climate crisis the Scottish entrepreneur refuses to be beaten. And, for once, investors are not salivating over a rising software star, nor someone dabbling in cryptocoins or renewable energy. The next big money making machine looks like coming from pizza ovens.
Almost a decade on from launching their business because they wanted to replicate the taste of restaurant-quality pizzas, the husband and wife team Kristian Tapaninaho and Darina Garland are now attracting interest from private equity firms in their Broxburn-based Ooni Pizza Ovens.
Ooni has been one of the successes to emerge from, and to large extent because of, the pandemic. Householders unable to eat out have found comfort in spending a three-figure sum to have an oven in the back garden. It has contributed to a surge in sales and the firm is receiving rave reviews from around the world.
If the speculation now surrounding the firm proves correct, selling a slice of Ooni could provide the couple with a payout running into hundreds of millions of pounds.
As if that isn’t enough good fortune to offset our carbon negativity, the angel community is reporting a flurry of investable propositions that are thriving across a range of sectors.
Par Equity, one of Scotland’s few venture capital firms, has just signed off a number of deals that has taken its tally of investments through the £100 million milestone. Its growth has also been attributable in part to investment in increasingly attractive, sector: forestry, which is gaining ground as a green asset class as investors look for tradable carbon credits.
The public sector has also turned in some impressive figures. Scottish Enterprise, the often criticised development agency, has just reported its best ever return on investments. A focus on the green agenda has been seen as an unnecessary narrowing of its scope to help firms, but it boasts a portfolio that includes some of the country’s most exciting prospects.
Academia is doing more than its bit to enrich the enterprise economy and Napier University deserves a special mention for producing a number of eye-catching spin-outs, particularly in the crucial battle against cybercrime. Across the country universities are collaborating with the private sector at an increasing rate in developing new companies in the health, fintech and robotics sectors which are providing the jobs of the future.
It’s not a bad record after what has been a difficult 18 months. Insolvencies may be rising as a result of government support being withdrawn and costs are rising, but the outlook remains more upbeat than many feared at the height of the Covid crisis. The problem they now face is getting the staff to meet their ambitions. Brexit has not helped in that regard, but it has focused attention on the need to nurture talent from within our borders.
Terry Murden held senior positions at The Sunday Times, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and The Northern Echo and is now editor of Daily Business